To find ways to control huanglongbing, commonly known as the citrus greening disease, USDA will allocate $25 million in 2014 farm bill funds to research and Cooperative Extension projects. The agency will kick in another $6.5 million to projects through its Huanglongbing Multi-Agency Coordination Group.
The 2014 farm bill provides $25 million per year for a total of $125 million of the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative funding toward citrus health research over the next five years.
Because there are wide differences in the occurrence and progression of HLB among the states, there are regional as well as national priorities for CDRE. These priorities to deal with:
- The pathogen
- The insect vector
- Citrus orchard production systems
- And non-agricultural citrus tree owners.
Priority will be given to projects that are multistate, multi-institutional, or trans-disciplinary and include clearly defined mechanisms to communicate results to producers. Successful applicants will be expected to engage stakeholders to insure solutions are commercially feasible. Projects should also include an economic analysis of the costs associated with proposed solutions.
USDA's Huanglongbing Multi-Agency Coordination Group will fund three new projects. The first project will commit approximately $2 million to field test antimicrobials that have shown promise in combating HLB in laboratory and greenhouse studies.
The second project, also funded for up to $2 million, will support the deployment of large-scale thermotherapy since studies have shown heating a tree to 120 degrees for approximately 48 hours can kill the HLB bacterium in the upper part of the tree, allowing the tree to regain productivity. This funding will address the challenge of identifying a quick and practical way for growers to use the technology on a large scale.
For the third project, the MAC Group is providing about $2.5 million to establish several model groves in cooperation with Florida Citrus Health Management Areas. A model grove would use best management practices—including systematic surveys, timely chemical treatments, new planting strategies, and the removal of dead and abandoned groves – so growers can produce healthy citrus crops even in the presence of HLB.